By making aliyah to Israel we find meaning and purpose. We find that we are part of something greater than ourselves. Just as Abraham did when commanded to “Lech lecha”
I have always been fascinated with the Jewish scriptures. Specifically with the Torah and the weekly portions. With how rich and steeped in meaning they are. How they are wise while being very human. How they have been studied and discussed, debated and dissected, year over year for thousands of years, by millions and millions of Jews and still reveal new angles. How rabbis, rabbinical students, biblical scholars and even complete non-observant Jews like myself can find in them interest and meaning.
Among the weekly Torah portions, the Parashat Hashavuh, I am particularly fond of three – the “Balak” portion with the Bilam curse; the “Shelach” portion telling the story of the spies; and perhaps most of all, this week’s portion, “Lech Lecha”, which tells the story of Avram and the beginning of the Jewish People. Who can’t identify with the story of how we came to be?
What I especially like about these biblical stories, is how they are always relevant. “Lech lecha” is the instruction given to Avram by God to basically go forth from his home with his entire family and move to the Land of Israel. In a sense, making him go on Aliyah and thus becoming a new immigrant. A story which is relevant directly or indirectly to almost every Jewish person in this country.
Israel is a country of immigrants, of “Olim” as we call it. Many of us have come here earlier or later in life and have gone through the experience of being uprooted and moved to a different world, face new challenges and realize that this was nothing we could have been prepared for.
How relevant is Avram’s quest? God in this story is the all powerful “shaliach”, the Jewish agency representative many of us are too familiar with. The person whose job it is to sell us on the idea of moving to Israel and how wonderful it is going to be. We all heard the stories of the expected glitz and glamour, especially at the time before we could Google and check out the realities for ourselves.
This is also when we first encounter the Israeli all encompassing mantra of – “Hakol yiheyeh beseder” It will all be OK. We were all given the shpiel of how we’ll have everything tax deductible, no VAT, housing, schooling. The city we want, the job they will help us find. Everything will be OK.
None of the promises we received come close to what Avram heard though. “Just grab all your belongings, get your wife and family and go. You are 75 you say? Don’t worry, its a nice place to retire at, the weather is perfect. Look, I’ll make you into a huge family, you will be blessed, trust me”.
I don’t think any of us really leave everything and come to Israel for the promises we are given by the shaliach. It is more that we have a calling we heed to. Something draws us here. The realities are, well, realities. They are never easy.
In the biblical story, Avram more or less comes here and deals with famine, has to take a short hiatus to Egypt to make ends meet. Comes back and the family has some trouble with the neighbors. Seems they have some cultural differences and differences in mentality. Tell us something we don’t know.
Heck, he even does some combat service when the need arises – now, how many of us have done that and can identify with that? Right?
It was over three thousand years ago but we can all relate. Yes, there are hard patches indeed, we all experience them.
We can joke about this but if I pause to look at my maternal great grandfather for a moment, I start to wonder. He must have been in his 70’s when he packed up and left Afghanistan nearly one hundred years ago to come to Israel upon hearing that the Geula, the redemption, has begun. He had no promises, just faith and trust. He has hundreds of descendants in Israel now. Many families in Israel share that same experience. And yes, we are all indeed blessed.
Maybe then there is more to this biblical story than meets the eye?
In Hebrew “Lech lecha” has multiple meanings. “Go forth”, “go from” and also “go to yourself”.
By going forth, Avram not only founded a People but most of all, he found himself. His true calling in life, his purpose. This is also true for many of us. By making aliyah to Israel we found meaning, we found purpose, we found something that fills a need and a void in our lives. We find that we are part of something greater than ourselves.
Most of all, through all the hardships, the frustrations, the trials and tribulations we go through in the process of adapting to life in this crazy yet magnificent country, at the end of the day, we find something very special. We find ourselves.